Keep the Kiwis: Phoenix deserve their place

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Australia need New-Zealand in the Hyundai A-League in some way, shape or form. There’s no doubt.

When news arrived announcing the FFA’s refusal to grant Wellington Phoenix another 10 year license many footballing fans were understandably shocked. The club, the sole representation for New Zealand in the Hyundai A-League, has enjoyed notable success throughout its nine year tenure, contributing some memorable moments in their nine years of existence.

According to FFA Chairman Frank Lowy the club needs to bring in more revenue and prove they are “of value” to the future of the league.

The footballing future of our trans-Tasman neighbour is up in the air but it shouldn’t be. We need our Kiwi brothers in Hyundai A-League because…

…it nurtures player development
New-Zealand and the Phoenix have a propensity to churn out great attacking players. They light up the A-League with pace, flair and an eye for goal. Need we mention the brilliance of Paul Ifill? The England born attacker razzled Australian defences for years with his international experience, earning him the title of the all-time highest goal scorer for the Phoenix. Or what about the prowess of A-League favourite Shane Smeltz? Current starting striker for Sydney FC and a key component in the rise to prominence for Perth Glory. How about Kosta Barbarouses? – arguably one of the most dangerous players currently in the A-League. Or perhaps Nathan Burns, one of Ange Postecoglou’s go-to men for the Socceroos. I could go on to name Jeremy Brockie, Leo Bertos and Ben Sigmund and I’d only be scraping the surface of a club who have contributed a wealth of individual talent to the A-League.

…it offers professional football in the Asiatic-Oceania region
How quickly we all forget how successful New Zealand was in the 2010 FIFA World Cup – far more successful than we were. Undefeated and missing out on the knockout round by a single point the All Whites out performed Australia and shone a light over their nation on the world stage. This achievement was no doubt aided by New Zealand’s week-in week-out participation in the Hyundai A-League and the establishment of a high quality domestic league feeding into the Phoenix. The coach of Phoenix and the coach of New Zealand were the same bloody person for goodness sake!

While it’s undisputed that Rugby Union sits atop the sporting throne in New-Zealand, football has the potential to challenge as a close second. The failure to sustain a competitive New-Zealand team will only weaken the World Game both nationally and internationally. And while not directly applicable to our presence in the Asia region, maintaining a strong footballing neighbour is only beneficial for both Australia and New Zealand to move us out of the ‘footballing south’.

…the threat of another Sydney team is too much to bear
One of the solutions to fill the void left by the potential ejection of Wellington Phoenix is the introduction of another Sydney based team. While this may seem exciting to some, the reality of introducing a third Sydney team is mostly detrimental. Sydney has quite successfully managed to establish a strong footballing culture that has, for all intents and purposes, pried open the grip NRL once held over the harbour city. The Sydney derby is one of the most exciting dates on the sporting calendar, and both Sydney FC and the Wanderers enjoy healthy membership and attendance rates. To introduce a third team would only dilute this strong fan base, crippling an emerging sporting culture in its infancy. Something both Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold and Wanderers coach Tony Popovic have been aggressively advocating against.

…of the Aussie-Kiwi rivalry
And finally, let’s face it, who doesn’t like travelling across the ditch to trounce one over our Kiwi brothers? If we lose this sporting date it only diminishes our chances at revenging the countless Wallabies losses to the unstoppable force of the All Blacks. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love trying to decipher the famous Fox Sports Wellington Phoenix commentary.

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George Vlotis
UTS Journalism graduate and football fanatic. Ex-NSW premier league player and now fortunate enough to be reporting on the A-League. Sydney is Sky Blue. Follow me @VlotisGeorge

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